Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental and behavioral issue that causes a person to perform or abstain from specific routines in an effort to shut out a chorus of intrusive thoughts, often to the detriment of the subject's daily life or their physical well-being. The obsessive aspect of this disorder means that the subject is constantly worried about things that are beyond his control, such as the end of the world, waiting for a green light in traffic and so on. The compulsive aspect of this disorder means that the subject cannot bring himself to continue until whatever ritual or mantra he has devised, be it flicking a light switch a number of times divisible by three or whispering some string of words together during the act, has been completed to satisfaction.
Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
There are several different theories on how a person comes to develop obsessive compulsive disorder, though genetics and the patient's environment are both believed to play a role.
- Drugs - Some medications have been known to induce this disorder even if the patient has no history of the condition. Atypical antipsychotic medications have been known to induce OCD as a side effect.
- Autoimmune Response - While a bit controversial, some findings suggest that some children and adolescents who suffer from OCD may have developed the disorder from exposure to a specific strain of staph infection.
- Genetics - Identical twins are more prone to this disorder than fraternal twins. Individual subjects tend to manifest the same disorders as a first-generation family member. Genetics are believed to account for anywhere from 45%-65% of OCD cases among children. Lastly, some research into individuals without a family history seems to have indicated that a genetic mutation, found across multiple unrelated individuals, may be yet another factor in how OCD can arise in someone.
Signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD can show up in a variety of permutations and is analyzed according to the Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS). The Y-BOCS has winnowed down the various forms of OCD down to 13 different categories of symptoms and these symptoms can be found within three to five groupings. Four reliable groups of symptoms seem to be:
- Symmetry. An obsession with order, counting, symmetry and repetition.
- Forbidden Thoughts. These tend to be intrusive thoughts related to topics of religion, violence and sexuality.
- Cleaning. The subject is anxious about contamination and compelled to thoroughly clean well after all dirt, grime or bacteria are gone.
- Hoarding. This symptom is distinct from others associated with obsessive compulsive disorder and is entirely focused on the act of hoarding, either as a compulsion or an obsession.
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that refuse to go away after ignoring or confronting them. Compulsions are a means of artificially gaining control over things, like a patient wearing green socks because people die when he wears white ones.
Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The two leading forms of treatment for patients with OCD are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotropic medications. In some extreme causes, patients may be subjected to electroshock therapy or even surgery. Surgical measures entail stimulation of the deep brain or vagus nerve regions or performing controlled damage of the cingulate cortex.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - While there are several varieties of CBT, OCD patients are subjected to exposure and response prevention (ERP). This sort of therapy involves encouraging the patient to willfully engage with the sorts of stimuli that cause them distress until such time that any negative thoughts or feelings can be endured while exposed to that stimuli.
- Medication - The main form of medication administered to patients with OCD are antidepressants. Antidepressants help elevate the patient's mood through tweaking brain chemistry and the classifications relevant to OCD are specifically engineered to alter the patient's natural ability to produce certain hormones. Some of these controls a person's mood and memory, as well as influence a person's awareness and their ability to react to stimuli in a timely fashion.
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